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THE GIFT OF BREAD!

Since homemade bread is a somewhat rare commodity today, you may have family and/or friends who will appreciate receiving a homemade loaf.

Depending on how many people make it to your “homemade bread gift list,” you may need to produce multiple loaves in short order. Within 8 to 10 hours, you can make at least 6 loaves of bread using my “streamlined” method.

Step 1: Inventory your ingredients. Make sure you have enough flour, sugar, and yeast on hand to make as many loaves as you need. Here’s a typical ingredient list for 6 2-pound loaves of bread:

  • Flour – an average of 3 ¾ cups per loaf = 22.5 cups. A five-pound bag of flour will make an average of 5 loaves.
  • Sugar – generally, a recipe for this loaf size will not call for more than ¼ cup of sugar per loaf. For 6 loaves, you’ll need 1 ½ cups of sugar. If you use another sweetener, multiply the amount for one loaf by 6.
  • Yeast – my recipe for a 2-pound loaf calls for 1.5 teaspoons of yeast. To ensure you have enough yeast to make multiple loaves with your recipe, multiply the yeast amount by the number of loaves you’re making.
  • You’ll also need salt and either butter or oil in your recipe.
  • Depending on your recipe ingredients, you may need milk and/or some additional ingredients (i.e., potato flakes to help keep the bread soft).
  • If necessary, measure out each ingredient so you can verify that you have what you need.

When baking multiple loaves, it helps to assemble all your ingredients in one place to speed measuring activities. You may also consider measuring all dry ingredients one or two days before you’re ready to bake. You can combine flour and salt but keep sugar and yeast amounts separated until you’re ready to use them.

If possible, set up an area close to your oven where the final rise can be completed. Once you start baking the loaves, the area around your oven should be warmer than the overall room temperature, which means the dough will rise more quickly.

To keep track of what stage each batch of dough is at, you can set timers (I use both the microwave and an old dial-type timer) so you don’t forget to put the dough into a loaf pan or into the oven. You’ll also want to time the bake time for each loaf (generally 30 minutes). A sheet that lists “Loaf 1,” “Loaf 2,” etc. can also help. Before you begin, estimate the time each batch of dough will be ready to put in a loaf pan and the time you expect it will be ready for the oven. This can help you accurately track each batch of dough since you’ll be able to work on other things as the process progresses.

It will be helpful to set up an area where each loaf can thoroughly cool before you bag it. If you don’t have enough cooling racks to accommodate all the loaves, you can suspend the loaf between two objects, with each edge of the loaf (set them up lengthwise) on boxes, pans, even plates. Just make sure heat can escape from the bottom of the bread, or it will become soggy.

Bag each loaf as soon as it’s cool. You can decorate the bag with stickers, ribbon, even wrapping paper if you like. Since homemade bread has no preservatives, be sure to store the loaves in a cool location (equivalent to a refrigerator) until you share them. You may also consider including a note about how to store the bread to keep it from spoiling.

Happy baking!